PA online poker gets its first championship of online poker

PokerStars Rolls Out $1 Million Pennsylvania Tournament Series

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It’s only been a week and a half that Pennsylvanians have had access to online poker. Now they’re going to get a $1 million guaranteed tournament series as well.

PokerStars and Fox Bet announced today that the first-ever Pennsylvania Championship of Online Poker (PACOOP) will run from Nov. 30 to Dec. 16. The news was first reported at USPoker. (You can also see the full schedule there.)

The news will likely come as a pleasant surprise to many players, as the site launched after the usual season for major online tournament series had passed. PokerStars rushed to make this happen, as if the timing were any later, it would conflict with the winter holidays when fewer players are online.

The scoop on COOPs

PokerStars’ COOP brand of tournament series spans all of its sites. The original World Championship of Online Poker (WCOOP) debuted in 2002 at the beginning of the poker boom. It consisted of just nine events and produced only a little over $730,000 in combined prizes.

It has continued to run PokerStars’ international dot-com site every year since then, growing steadily in scale. This year’s WCOOP had 219 events across three buy-in tiers and combined guarantees in excess of $75 million.

A spring version of the series, SCOOP, was added in 2009. PokerStars’ regional sites, including New Jersey, mimic this pattern, with spring and fall editions of their own COOPs.

Inaugural PACOOP will imitate NJCOOP

PokerStars New Jersey is the smallest of PokerStars’ regional sites and, therefore, has the smallest COOPs. This year’s NJSCOOP and NJCOOP each had total guarantees of $1 million. The latter spread these across 50 events with buy-ins starting at $30.

It appears that PACOOP will follow the NJCOOP schedule quite closely, at least for this first run. It, too, will have 50 events and $1 million in total guarantees. The buy-ins will likewise start at $30, but with a lower maximum of $750, whereas NJCOOP had a $1,000 High Roller.

The Main Event will be identical as well, with a $300 buy-in and $100,000 guaranteed. It will begin on the penultimate day of the series and presumably have a two-day structure similar to NJCOOP’s.

How to qualify on a budget

For players with limited bankrolls but still are interested in participating, there are a few ways to get into PACOOP events on the cheap:

  • Satellites will be available for all events, some starting as low as $1.
  • Depositing $50 or more with code PACOOP grants entry to a freeroll satellite awarding 25 Main Event tickets worth $300 apiece.
  • Anyone knocked out of an event before the money bubble can try their luck in a daily Second Chance freeroll, each of which will award $1,250 in satellite tickets.

Could PokerStars have been more aggressive?

PokerStars is notoriously conservative with tournament guarantees compared to its competitors. Even so, mimicking New Jersey’s schedule might be setting the bar needlessly low.

In its first week of round-the-clock operation, PokerStars Pennsylvania has had cash-game player counts averaging in the high 300s. That’s more than quadruple the traffic seen in New Jersey at the moment.

It could be that PokerStars is acting exceedingly cautious because online poker in PA is a brand-new market. It could also be that the proximity of PACOOP to the winter holidays is of concern.

Either way, we’re probably going to see a lot of PACOOP events draw prize pools of double their guarantees or more. If that happens, we’ll likely see bigger guarantees for the inevitable PASCOOP and next year’s PACOOP.

Should PACOOP run alongside NJCOOP?

Another interesting question is whether future PACOOPs and PASCOOPs will run simultaneously with their New Jersey equivalents. That wasn’t an option this time because NJCOOP was long since finished by the time PokerStars launched in Pennsylvania. It may be the plan for the future, however.

That’s the way things work in Europe, where there’s usually a simultaneous series in Italy for everyone running on the Southern European network. It would be natural to do it in the US as well, but there’s one good counterargument, which is that it’s a short drive between Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

Live tournament players in those states often attend events in both Atlantic City and Philadelphia. Scheduling PACOOP just before or after NJCOOP rather than right alongside it would allow committed tournament players to play both.

- Alex is a journalist from Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, Canada. Now site runner for Online Poker Report, he has been writing about poker and the online gambling industry in various capacities since 2014.
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